$100,000-$200,000 FEATURE FILM (aka: Ultra-Low-Budget Filmmaking)
by Dov S-S Simens on June 22, 2015
THE ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET FEATURE FILM.
$100,000-$200,000? (Low-Budget or Ultra-Low-Budget Filmmaking)
Here’s the assumption: You have $100K-$200K cash sitting in a bank account (don’t know how you got it & don’t care) yelling “spend me, spend me”…
Sheeeyit, that’s a lot of money. Actually more than enough to Produce a quality Low-Budget, actually an Ultra-Low-Budget Feature Film for you can now afford to execute a 2-3 week shoot.
In a later blog I will show you how easy it is to raise $100,000-$200,000 by “selling-the-sizzle not-the-steak” that more than one of you are going to e-mail me asking what do you do when the investors give you more money than you asked for…
In my live “2-Day Film School” on Day-2 (Sunday, Sell & Finance Your Movie) I spend the last 2 hours explaining how to raise $100,000-$200,000, or $200,000-$300,000 or even $300,000-$500,000 by doing what traditional theory laden Film Schools call a Private Placement.
At those over-priced film schools like USC, NYU or UCLA they bring in a guest lecturer (a power attorney) that gives you technical mumbo-jumbo; you take pages of notes, can’t wait to rush the lecturer when class is over, ask for his/her business card and think you made a contact…
Bottom-Line, come the next day you still don’t know how to raise the $100,000-$200,000 for your first feature film… and your class notes don’t help and when you look at the attorney’s business card and phone him/her you quickly discover that unless you have a $10,000 Retainer (billing at $525-$750/hour) he/she won’t chat with you.
Now, back to my live “2-Day Film School” and on Sunday, in 45-minutes, you will instantly know how “Sell-The-Sizzle, Not-The-Steak” and raise $100,000-$200,000, at a minimum, by doing what is called a legal “Dog-n-Pony” show.
Matter of fact you will think it is so easy, you will want to leave the class instantly to proceed but first you must ask me the question…. “What if I get to much money?”
Duh? To much money?
What do you think my response will be?
Anyway back to the $100,000-$200,000 Ultra-Low-Budget Feature Film.
Let’s assume you have the cash….
Now how do you spend it to make a better movie.
THE 1-2 WEEK SHOOT:
Hire Movie Professionals
Assuming you have $100,000-$200,000 you can either make a 1-week shoot with pretty good salaries for crew, professional 4K cameras, but working 15-18 hour days or a 2-week shoot, with lesser salaries but acceptable and better work hours, with excellent food, that lead to an improved production value.
Let’s start with crew (hire experienced professionals) and budget for a 1-wwek Shoot, with a limited location script, no movies and a shooting schedule of 10-12 pages/day.
Plus, you can afford to hire & feed 27-30 people.
This is going to be a real movie.
IMPORTANT POINT NOT TAUGHT AT FILM SCHOOLS: The shorter the actual shoot the easier it is to get a professional crew. Why? Less time to work to get an Opening Title & IMDB Credit… Crew go from job-to-job and they always have 1- 2- or 3-weeks available (fill in time) between their union paying gigs. And crew, like anyone else, are people, with families, debts and mortgages. Thus, they are always looking for gigs and yours, although not paying well, is only a short period.
Crew will go “What the heck” and take the cash gig.
For a 1-week shoot. Individual crew always have time available and will take the gig to (A) get out of the house, (B) make some cash and (C) get another IMDB credit, When you go to a 2-week shoot it is slightly harder to find qualified crew for minimal non-union wages, but you can find them, and for a 3-week shoot it is even harder. If you ever plan to do a 4-week shoot (crew always say, when you are hiring, “Oh 4-weeks. That’s a month. Can’t take the gig”…
But you are only crewing for a 1-week, possibly a 2-week shoot, you will get extremely qualified pros… for nominal wages.
THE LOW-BUDGET MOVIE CREW:
ONE… CINEMATOGRAPHER/DP #1 ($2,000-$3,000): 3-Days Prep and 1-Week Shoot (a former Big-Budget Camera Operator who wants an Indy DP Credit)
TWO… CINEMATOGRAPHER/SHOOTER #2 ($1,000-$1,200): 2-Days Prep and 1-Week Shoot (A former 1st AC who wants to Operate the 2nd Unit Camera)
THREE… ASSISTANT CAMERAMAN/DIT ($500-$800): 1-Day Prep, 1-week Shoot (A former 2nd AC who wants a DIT credit)
FOUR… PRODUCTION MANAGER ($4,000-$5,000): 3 weeks Prep ($1,000/week) and 1-week Shoot ($1,500)
FIVE… PRODUCTION COORDINATOR ($1,500-$2,000): 4-year Film School grad. 2-weeks Prep ($500/week) and 1-week Shoot ($750)
SIX “A”… DIRECTOR ($0): If yourself. What would you pay yourself for directing a short? Answer…$0… Then that is what you pay yourself for Directing your 1st Feature
SIX “B”… DIRECTOR ($5,000-$6,000): A Film School grad, with 3 Film Awards (shorts) at Sundance, Cannes or Toronto who is now 30 years old and mature. 3-weeks Prep ($750/week) & 1-week Shoot ($2,000) and $300-$500/week during Post
SEVEN… ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ($2,000-$3,000): Part of the Director’s Team. A former Script Supervisor/Set Designer. A seasoned pro. 35-40 years old. 1-week Prep ($750) and 1-week Shoot ($1,250)
EIGHT… SCRIPT SUPERVISOR ($1,000-$2,000): Part of the Director’s Team. Works with AD and DP to coordinate shot coverage & script notes for post.
NINE… PRODUCTION DESIGNER ($5,000-$6,000): 4-weeks Prep ($1,000/week), 1-week Shoot ($2,000). The PD will be found by referrals from your DP & PM.
TEN… SET DECORATOR ($2,500-$3,000): The PD will hire him/her. 2-weeks Prep ($750/week) & 1-week Shoot ($1,000)
ELEVEN… ART DIRECTOR/PAINTER ($1,000-$2,000): The PD will hire him/her. An artist. A department store window dresser. 1-week Prep ($7500) & 1-week Shoot ($800)
TWELVE… SOUNDMAN ($3,000): Flat Deal for 2-days Prep & 1-week Shoot (he/she comes with all sound equipment needed)
THIRTEEN… BOOM/MIKE ($1,000): Flat Deal. Comes with Soundman
FOURTEEN… GAFFER/LIGHTING DIRECTOR ($5,000): Flat Deal. He comes with his Independent 3-Ton Lighting Truck (Lights, Cables, Generator)
FIFTEEN… BEST BOY ELECTICIAN/GEREATOR ($1,500): Comes with 3-Ton Lighting Truck ($500 Prep & $1,000 Shoot). Someone needs to know Power/Electricity
SIXTEEN… KEY GRIP ($2,500-$3,000): Has worked with your DP & Gaffer. 1-week Prep ($1,000) and 1-week Shoot ($2,000)
SEVENTEEN… DOLLY GRIP ($2,000): He is part of your Key Grip’s team. 3-Day Prep ($600-$900), 1-week Shoot ($1,000) & 1-day Wrap ($100-$400)
EIGHTEEN… BEST BOY GRIP ($1,500): You’ll need a plumber/carpenter, with tool box, on the set. He’s part of Key Grip’s Team. 1-week Prep ($500) & 1-week Shoot ($1,000)
NINETEEN… HAIR/MAKEUP KEY ($2,000-$3,000): Starts after casting. 2-weeks Prep ($750/week) & 1-week Shoot ($1,000)
TWENTY… HAIR/MAKEUP #2 ($1,500-$2,000): A recent graduate of Cosmetology School. First job in movie. 2-week Prep ($250-$350/week) and 1-week Shoot ($500)
TWENTY ONE… WARDROBE KEY ($2,000-$3,000): Like Hair/Makeup this person hired after Casting. 2-weeks Prep ($750/week) & 1-week Shoot ($1,000)
TWENTY TWO… WARDROBE #2 ($1,000-$1,500): Recent graduate of Fashion School. Wants to be a stylist. Knows how to sew & shop. 3-weeks Prep & Shoot ($300-$400/week)
TWENTY THREE… PRODUCTION ASSISTANT #1 ($1,500): Will be assigned to Director’s team 4-weeks at $300-$350/week. Comes with a SUV auto.
TWENTY FOUR… PRODUCTION ASSISTANT #2 ($1,500): Will become the Craft Service. Pre-production “Gofer” and Buys & prepares Breakfast & snacks. Comes with a SUV auto.
TWENTY FIVE… PRODUCTION ASSISTANT #3 ($1,500): Will be assigned to Producer’s Team. Oversees Paperwork, Call Sheets & Production Reports
TWENTY SIX… GOFER/INTERN #1 ($500): Comes with a Van or Pickup. Paid $100/week, Food & Credit
TWENTY SEVEN… GOFER/INTERN #2 ($500): Comes with a Van or Pickup. Paid $100/week, Food & Credit.
You are no longer doing a dressed-up amateur shoot hoping that passion, desire and wishful thinking pulls you through for, with $100,000-$200,00, you have more than enough money to hire a 27-30 Professional Crew (paying nominal non-union wages) and you can make a movie, with a 27 man/woman qualified crew.
Plus, crew salaries for a 3-week Prep & 1-week Shoot are only $54,000-$66,000 (true?)… and you have $100,000-$200,000.
Now, what are you going to do with the remaining $46,000-$134,000?
WRAPUP: THE LOW-BUDGET or ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET FEATURE FILM.
With $100-200K in cash… what do you want to call the budget when someone asks you “What’s your budget?”
Are you going to call your movie a Low-Budget Feature Film or are you going to call it an Ultra-Low-Budget Feature Film?
Point, I’m making is that once you go over $100,000, whether you call it Low-B or Ultra-Low B, you have enough money to hire pros. Plus, don’t forget that the above salaries includes a 3-Ton Lighting/Grip truck with Generator, a Soundman with all Audio Equipment needed and 5 PAs & Gofers with 3-4 pickups, vans or small trucks.
This is cool.
Plus, with the remaining $46,000-$134,000 you have enough money to get a name (tv name only) or throw in 30-40 Visual Effects or coordinate 3-4 locations (remember you now have a seasoned pro crew), or attempt a Martial Arts film as good as the 1-location Indonesian flick “RAID: REDEMPTION”, which has now become a studio franchise…
The possibilities and options of what you can do with this added $46K-$134K are limitless and you have now (congratulations) entered the world of low-budget filmmaking.
Dov S-S Simens / Dean / Hollywood Film Institute
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72 comments on “$100,000-$200,000 FEATURE FILM (aka: Ultra-Low-Budget Filmmaking)”
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Many people believe (outside of the industry) that $100,000 – $200,000 is considered low budget or ultra-low budget or micro budget. That is completely inaccurate. In reality, low budget is in the $1MM-$2.5MM range. Micro/Ultralow budget is really in the $500K-$1MM range. Anything under $500K is considered NO Budget. This needs to be understood more. When a new/young filmmaker comes into an office and says they have a pitch for a low budget film and then its understood their budget is in the $100K range, the film and the filmmaker are quickly dismissed as they do not know the difference between the low budget/micro/ultra/no budget ranges.
That’s when the filmmaker goes “well I didn’t need you or your money” and goes off and makes a great film for much less than 100k while studios try to capture the same magic with a lot more money 🙂
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According to the the big three film unions “Ultra Low Budget” refers is under $200k, a “Modified Low Budget” is between $200-$625K, and “Low Budget” is between $625K-$2.5M. “Micro Budget” is not professionally used term.
Karen, those were SAG terms (they no longer apply to SAG’s new agreement), they didn’t apply to the other guilds. DGA uses terms like “Level 1A, Level 1 B, Level 4C”, and IATSE uses “Ultra Low Budget”, and “Low Budget Tier 1 (or 2/3)”
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No love for Props?
One major thing you forgot in your budget is the editor and colorist. It sounds great you got your awesome crew at a non union rate. But now you got all this great footage and nothing to do with it. A good editor will charge you a good $250 per post min with out corrections, hell some are even $150 an hour which could run into 600+ hours. No color correction done even yet. No closed caption or encoding for final render. Sometime you have to encode multiple times per platform specific. And if you need VFX or similar you would need a crew in place for post as well. I still think it was a great read and if you got $100k you can do a great indie feature with great crew. I personally am like most and take offers non union.
What do you do Matt..?
Also…Where do Actors’ Salaries fall in all of this?
I shot a film with a $25K budget and it made $500K off of Amazon and now this director has a standing deal with a distribution company. They will now take any film he makes. Was it luck to be able to use a beautiful location for free? Was it luck that the DP (me) traded a small percentage of the film for a complete RED camera package for the 10 day shoot? Was it luck that Amazon just happen to start an independent film section the day our film went live? Was it luck that our film was the first film listed in the new category? Yes to all. Add up all those “lucks” and “presto” a negative budget film that turns out to be a huge success. The moral of the story: you can’t find all those lucky breaks if you don’t make your film. So, go make your film and don’t forget to have a lot of fun doing it.
what film? would love to see!
I’m guessing it’s Hercules Houdini Holmes.
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Sometime you have to encode multiple times per platform specific. And if you need VFX or similar you would need a crew in place for post as well. I still think it was a great read and if you got $100k you can do a great indie feature with great crew.
I am interested in the feature. Thanks!
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One major thing you forgot in your budget is the editor and colorist. It sounds great you got your awesome crew at a non union rate.
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I’d start with a short film if possible, and write your script to match your resources. This is the most important thing. Read more Your idea shouldn’t require things that you can’t already get ahold of, your characters should match your available actors, and it should take place in locations that you have free access to- like parks, city sidewalks, your own home. I shot my first feature-length film in a store that I worked at.
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